Education student overcomes difficult challenges to pursue her dreams

Kaylee Blake
Kaylee Blake is set to graduate and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher

As long as she can remember, Kaylee Blake (Educational Studies, ’22) knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“That is my goal,” Blake said. “I want to teach.”

She is now on track to get her degree, graduate, and pursue a career in education.

Blake has never let difficult challenges get in the way of achieving her goals. Born with cerebral palsy, she has used a wheelchair her entire life. Then in 2020, just a couple of months before she was supposed to graduate, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

“I was in the hospital for three weeks and I was on a ventilator for two of those weeks,” she explained. “I was paralyzed from the neck down essentially.”

Blake had to put her education on hold and take time to recover.

“We were in the middle of a pandemic too and I just decided taking as much time off as I could was really crucial to my recovery, but also for my safety as well,” she stated. “I went through months and months of therapy to help me get back to my baseline. I am pretty much recovered and I feel super lucky.”

Blake came back to UNE this semester to finish up her classes and take on two internships. One of them is working with the Maine Department of Education on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) modules. The SEL online portal offers Maine families and educators free digital lessons designed to help students in grades K-12 develop the skills required for social, emotional, and mental well-being.

“Teachers do have to focus on the core of education, math, reading, writing, and all of that,” Blake commented “But I think right now, more than ever, it is important to have SEL because it helps kids connect with their emotions and realize that they are not alone in what they are going through. I think it gives them strategies for coping.”

Blake’s faculty supervisor, Carol Marcotte, Ph.D., teaching professor in the Department of Education (DOE), helped her land the internship.

“Kaylee is back at school and she is raring to go,” Marcotte said. “I am telling you she is a wonderful, wonderful student.”

Blake is one of several students in UNE’s Education program now vetting the SEL modules for the DOE.

“There are a lot of different topics for the modules including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision making,” she said. “So, I go through and make sure that they are appropriate for the different grades and that they work properly. I also give suggestions on what can we add to them or what we might want to take away.”

Marcotte added, “We always know that some students come to school with a lot of things that they have to cope with, either at home or in the environment outside of school, and they need support. The modules can help with that.”

Blake is grateful for Marcotte’s help. While many education students go out into public school classrooms during the senior year for their internships, Blake was wary of doing so.

“The Guillain-Barre Syndrome wiped out my immune system,” she stated. “Because of that, I have to be super careful about who I come in contact with and how many people I come in contact with.”

Once the pandemic subsides, Blake is looking forward to getting back into the classroom with young students. A place she has been many times during her years at UNE.

“I have had many experiences out in the classroom that have been so rich and they have led to so many great learning experiences,” she said.

Watch Kaylee's Story

Kaylee on laptop

Working on SEL module

Kaylee heading to class

Heading to class

Kaylee's tv interview

Being interviewed by NEWS CENTER Maine